Woodworking Tool Reviews

Wood Planer vs Jointer – What to Use?

Beginner woodworkers often wonder if they should use quality wood planers or jointers to prepare their wood. While they’re both big, efficient, and costly power tools that can help you produce quality woodwork, they do still have distinct differences that you need to consider.

If you’re not familiar with the differences between them, keep reading before making an informed decision for your woodworking projects.

Wood Planer Versus Jointer

At A Glance

Jointers are typically used for squaring an edge and flattening a single face. They can be used to finish a board and ensure it has a thickness that is relatively the same all around. With knives on the bottom, a jointer cuts from below and removes warping and cupping issues.

Wood planers, on the other hand, perform similar yet different uses. They cut from the top and make sure that boards have the same thickness all around. They are generally used to create a uniform, even thickness and cut parallel surfaces.

An In-Depth Description

Jointers tend to be used when you’re preparing wood before a project. They create a flat surface and square edge to ensure that your work is even and smooth. For any projects that require connecting boards, jointers are one of the best tools for the job.

Jointers are quick and efficient at prepping your wood for a project as a more heavy-duty tool. If you tend to deal with warped or cupped wood, they are beneficial for helping to smooth and flatten. They tend to cost less than planers and are fully adjustable so that you can work quickly on each project.

Wood planers, on the other hand, provide even thickness throughout the entire surface of your board. As the wood is fed through the machine on rollers, you can adjust the speed to get a more precise finish.

Whereas jointers ensure one edge and one surface is squared and smooth, wood planers will smooth the board as a whole. Jointers can smooth and square both edges, but it’s not easy to ensure your board has the same thickness all around. With planers, this is guaranteed.

A thickness planer is easy to use and great at making your board evenly thick all around. Additionally, it’ll give your board a smooth finish. While it can’t fix warping or cupping like jointers can, it’s still great tool that’s ideal for any woodworker.

Jointer vs Planer: Which to Use?

If you’re debating whether to buy a jointer or a thickness planer, you’ll need to take a look at the work you typically do with your lumber.

In many cases, having just a thickness planer will be enough. Some people benefit more from having a jointer, though, so you must understand them both before making the decision.

It depends entirely on your situation and woodworking experience. Sometimes, you can get away without using either of them.

Squaring Edges

When it comes to squaring edges, your best choice is the jointer. One of the primary uses for this tool is squaring edges, and it’s easy and quick to do with a jointer. They create a smooth, perfectly straight edge and even help smooth out a bit of the surface.

A wood planer will be of no use to you if you’re trying to square corners. While you can get away with using hand tools instead of a jointer, using a planer won’t solve your problem in the slightest.

Smoothing Out a Surface

A board with a rough, uneven surface is challenging and you must get it evened out if you’re going to use it. If this is the case, a thickness planer will be helpful.

As long as the problem isn’t warping or cupping, a thickness planer will work to smooth out your board and ensure it has an even thickness all around. 

Fixing Cupping, Warping, or Twisting

Jointers were made to help fix any warping, twisting, or cupping problems. If you have a particularly difficult board to work with, running it through a jointer can quickly fix the problem. It won’t guarantee even thickness all around like a thickness planer will, but it will certainly solve your underlying problem.

Once again, this is a problem where a wood planer wouldn’t be helpful. While it can provide a smooth surface, it can’t fix your board. If you regularly work with problematic rough lumber, then a jointer is much more important than a planer.

General Use

If you’re looking for a tool that’s great for general projects, a wood planer is the way to go. You can do quite a bit more with a planer than a jointer once you get the hang of it.

In most cases, you’ll be buying pre-treated wood. This reduces the need for a jointer as your wood is probably free of warping, cupping, and twisting in the first place. It likely has square edges too. Even if it doesn’t, it’s easy to use a table saw or even a circular saw to fix them.

It is possible to use a jointer for more than just squaring edges, but it doesn’t have as much versatility or use as a planer.

When you’re really tied between one or the other, you will typically be better off choosing a wood planer. Unless your circumstances are exceptional, it will be much more helpful in the long run.

Wood Planer and Jointer Combo

There is a combo tool available for those who really could benefit from both a wood planer and a jointer, or those who just can’t decide. Known as a jointer planer combo, this machine serves both purposes in one and can be great for many reasons.

Jointer Planer Uses

A jointer planer can be used for anything a jointer or a wood planer can be used for. It’s just both machines combined into one for ease and space saving. A jointer planer combo is a good choice for those who have small workshops or don’t like carrying boards from one end of their workspace to another.

While many people complain about the difficulties in switching between jointer mode and planer mode, the machine still does more than its fair share of work. It takes a bit of time to adjust and change, but for those who really use both machines, it’s worth it.

Should You Buy One?

If you’re interested in both a wood planer and a jointer but don’t want to spend the money to buy them separately, the jointer planer combo can be a good choice.

If you are more comfortable having two separate machines, it’s best to steer away from the combo machine.

What to Keep in Mind

Jointer planer combos are expensive, and they won’t be as effective as the two machines separately. However, for those who don’t have the space or budget to buy both machines, purchasing a joint planer combo is better than purchasing neither.

1. Power

For a jointer planer combo, power isn’t the most important thing. You can get by with a lower power machine, but you should realize that this means it will cut slower.

You should keep an eye on the horsepower and amps so that you know exactly what the maximum cutting power is and how much power the machine has.

2. Cutting Tools

There are two types of cutting tools in a jointer planer: knives and helical. Knives are the traditional tool, while helical is a more modern solution created, thanks to current technology. The helical cuts are smoother, and the cutters last longer, but the price of helical machines tends to be higher.

3. Capacity

It’s important that you purchase a machine that has the necessary capacity for your work. Two of the most important aspects to keep in mind are the width and cutting depth, as these will both directly affect what size of boards you can work with.

4. Build

Depending on your budget, jointer planers will be built using different materials. Some of the common materials are iron, steel, and aluminum. Think about your workload and how strong you need your machine to be before buying one. 


If you can choose only one, the best approach is to look at your projects and consider their nature and which tool will be more suitable. Ultimately, they’ll both help you in your woodworking projects. Planers are great at creating parallel surfaces but aren’t as effective at squaring off edges. On the other hand, jointers can remove warping and twisting easily but can leave behind rough surfaces.